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Culture


04.16.14: Francisco Laranjo

Critical Graphic Design: Critical of What?
A review of the current state of critical graphic design.
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04.13.14: John Foster

The Focused Obsession of Photographer Rob Amberg
Rob Amberg is an award winning a documentary photographer who lives with his wife live on a small farm in the same NC county he photographs. His subjects have been neighbors and acquaintances, friends of friends and strangers he has met.
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04.08.14: David Morris

The Public Library
“The public library is a singularly American invention.” An excerpt from the new book The Public Library: A Photographic Essay.
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03.30.14: John Foster

The Greenville, NC Daily Reflector: 1948 to 1967
One of the best ways to investigate the life and times of a region is to look at the local photo files from the daily newspaper.
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03.09.14: John Foster

Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
Blues, Baptisms, and Prison Farms: The Lomax Snapshots of 1934-1950
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03.06.14: Alexandra Lange

Not Afraid of Noise: Mexico City Stories
A photographic tour of Mexico City, house by house, wall by wall.
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03.02.14: John Foster

Shoe Designs Before 1900
Having never really taken the time to look at ancient shoes (I have only three pair of shoes myself — black, brown and a pair running shoes), I was very impressed with the creativity and design of shoes from centuries ago.
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02.11.14: Alexandra Lange

Premature Demolition
The Folk Art Museum, David Adjaye's market hall, and the first addition to the Morgan Library. If three makes a trend, then premature demolition qualifies.
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02.09.14: John Foster

The Private World of Martina Kubelk
A photo album containing 99 pages and over 380 photographs; self-portraits of a man in women’s clothes.
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01.14.14: Alexandra Lange

Playing With Design: Fredun Shapur
Add Fredun Shapur to the pantheon of modern designers making winning and sculptural objects for children.
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01.12.14: John Foster

Native American Design
The National Museum of the American Indian has one of the most extensive collections of Native American art and artifacts in the United States. Though the museum represents many culture areas of the Western Hemisphere, I was most drawn to objects by the various tribes of the North American plains.
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01.03.14: Rick Poynor

Martin Sharp: People, Politics and Pop
Martin Sharp rediscovered: drawings and collages from the book People, Politics and Pop: Australians in the Sixties.
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01.02.14: Owen Edwards

For Better or Worse, This Design Endures
Owen Edwards on the enduring qualities of the AK-47.
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12.31.13: Adam Harrison Levy

Designer’s Cookbook: Jake Tilson
Only in the layered, interconnected culinary world of graphic designer, artist, cookbook author Jake Tilson could huevos rancheros eaten in Los Angeles inspire someone to cook Baid Masus, or Baghdad Special Eggs, a 13th-century Arab dish.
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12.30.13: Alexandra Lange

Year of the Women
A year-end wrap-up of my favorite stories. The common theme? Women and the making of design.
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12.17.13: Adam Harrison Levy

Designer’s Cookbook: Louise Fili
Lousie Fili on her love of Italy, type and food.
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12.08.13: John Foster

Japanese Municipality Logos
Accidental Mysteries for December 8, 2013 takes a look at the forward-thinking, abstract logos that symbolize Japanese city municipalities.
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12.06.13: Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange

Lunch with the Critics: Fourth-Annual Year-End Awards
Our intrepid critics, Alexandra Lange and Mark Lamster, celebrate (and castigate) the best and worst architecture and design of 2013.
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11.27.13: Adam Harrison Levy

Saul Leiter: Remembered
Saul Leiter taught himself to paint, but his father did not approve. These early abstract works, dating from the 1940s, show a remarkably confident use of line, color and composition.
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11.11.13: Rick Poynor

Collage Culture: Nostalgia and Critique
An interview with David Banash, author of Collage Culture: Readymades, Meaning, and the Age of Consumption.
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10.21.13: Alexandra Lange

Where We Work
A Kickstarter for co-working space Makeshift Society points to the light, space and tools creative freelancers need to be productive.
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10.06.13: John Foster

Giraffe Houses of the Ozarks
Accidental Mysteries for October 6, 2013 focuses on the giraffe houses of the Ozarks.
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09.29.13: John Foster

The Open Eye: The Home Collection of Ray Yoshida
Accidental Mysteries for September 29, 2013 focuses on the vast home collection of Chicago artist and teacher Ray Yoshida.
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09.25.13: Stephen Eskilson

Heteronormative Design Discourse
The question of sexual identity, a central focus of a great deal of thought in recent decades, has received scant attention in the design world.
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09.24.13: Alexandra Lange

Learning New Tricks
Harvard doesn't have any design courses, but I've found new friends in "material culture." What it's like for a critic to go back to school.
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09.22.13: John Foster

Barkcloth Art of the Ömie
Accidental Mysteries for September 22 focuses on art of the Ömie people of New Guinea — powerful, graphic works on barkcloth that they call nioge.
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09.09.13: Mark Lamster

High Net Space: The New International Style
High Net Space: The New International Style
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09.01.13: John Foster

Signs of Labor
Accicental Mysteries for September 1, 2013 focuses on signs of labor.
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08.22.13: Rick Poynor

Collage Now, Part 1: Sergei Sviatchenko
In a crowded field, Sergei Sviatchenko’s highly reductive photo-collages look like his own and no one else’s.
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08.22.13: Rick Poynor

Collage Now, Part 2: Cut and Paste Culture
Cut-and-paste culture is booming and collage-making is rampant: paper-based, digital, and all points between.
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08.18.13: John Foster

Folk Funeraria of the South
Accidental Mysteries for August 18th focuses on folk funeraria of the South.
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06.20.13: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Upgrade Yourself!
If appearances matter more than ever, as we are constantly told, the personal makeover has become our most fundamental design task.
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06.05.13: Owen Edwards

The Best Management Memo … Ever!
Owen Edwards on the most effective eight words he's ever read.
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06.02.13: John Foster

A Philatelist’s Dream
This week's Accidental Maysteries focuses on a Philatelist’s dream.
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05.28.13: Alexandra Lange

The Fork and the World: Design 101
If you had to explain design to the uninitiated, where would you start?
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05.19.13: John Foster

A Nod to Surrealism

For artists not working in digital media — those who cut, build, draw, paint, glue, bend, and make things in the more traditional manner, there is something of a “Surrealist” popularity at hand today.
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05.15.13: Rob Walker

Finding The Story
Emily Spivack's exhibition of unexpectedly interesting stories from eBay.
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05.14.13: Alexandra Lange

Anxiety, Culture and Commerce
Is the museum store a distraction or an enticement?
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04.14.13: John Foster

The Imagination of Playgrounds
Accidental Mysteries for April 14 focuses on the Imagination of Playgrounds.
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04.01.13: Mark Lamster

How to Design an Iconic NY Fast Food Joint
Design secrets of New York fast food icons.
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03.18.13: Owen Edwards

My Month as a Mocker
A remembrance of London in the 1960s. Rockers rode motorcycles and Mods rode scooters.
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03.07.13: Alexandra Lange

After the Museum: The Tumblr
To create metamuseum.tumblr.com, a multi-museum, multi-curator Tumblr @MADMuseum, I saw it as a kind of curatorial game: Show Me What You’ve Got.
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03.03.13: John Foster

The Proper Art of Writing in 1655
Accidental Mysteries for March 03, 2013 focuses on the proper art of writing in 1655.
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02.17.13: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 02.17.13
Accidental Mysteries for February 17, 2013 focuses on the material culture of the Cold War.
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02.10.13: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 02.10.13
Accidental Mysteries for February 10, 2013 focuses on the spirit of faces: a gallery of masks.
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02.04.13: John Thackara

Cycle Commerce: The Red Blood Cells of a Smart City
Dehli's many millions of bicycle and rickshaw vendors embody the entrepreneurship, sustainable mobility, social innovation and thriving local economies, that a sustainable city needs. How can that be traslated to European cities?
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02.04.13: Alexandra Lange

Why Bernadette Fox Is Scary
The heroine of Where’d You Go, Bernadette is an award-winning female architect. Don’t envy her life.
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02.03.13: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 02.03.13
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is Signs of Ourselves.
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01.27.13: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 01.27.13
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is Communicating with the Divine.
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01.14.13: Michael Bierut

Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport
Michael Bierut on logo redesign outrages, what they mean, and why we should demand more.
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12.23.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 12.23.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is the Art of Vintage Signs.
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12.03.12: Alexandra Lange

Reintroducing the Tilletts
If you are interested in textile design, mid-century style, or creative partnerships, I would urge you to go visit “The World of D.D. and Leslie Tillett” at the Museum of the City of New York.
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11.21.12: Alexandra Lange

3rd Annual Holiday Card Review
Holiday card designs for 2012 reveal the social media preoccupations of their buyers, whether it is Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram or old-fashioned (perhaps Downton Abbey-inspired?) stationery.
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11.04.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 11.04.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is Poison.
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10.28.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 10.28.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is altered objects.
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10.21.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 10.21.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is Time.
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10.17.12: Rob Walker

Killing for Beautiful Objects
A report on the ivory trade reminds us of the uniquely human willingness to kill for beautiful objects.
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10.14.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 10.14.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is Nocturnes.
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10.08.12: Alexandra Lange

Having Fun at the Museum
Blocks, rocket ships, playgrounds and balls: the hidden meaning of playthings at the Museum of Modern Art.
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10.04.12: Jude Stewart

The World's Smashing-est Kids' TV Show
A review of Karambolage, a kids’ television show produced by ARTE, a French-German arts and culture channel.
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09.10.12: Alexandra Lange

Someone Else's Shangri La
An exhibition of Doris Duke's Honolulu mansion, Shangri La, proves a "Spanish-Moorish-Persian-Indian complex" works as theater.
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09.09.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 09.09.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is Thoughtful Ephemera.
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08.26.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 08.26.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is taxonomies.
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08.21.12: Alexandra Lange

Critics Critical Criticism
Meta-criticism all over the blogosphere (but why only about books?)
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08.19.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 08.19.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is clothing.
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08.12.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 08.12.12
Accidental Mysteries is an online curiosity shop of extraordinary things, mined from the depths of the online world and brought to you each week by John Foster, a writer, designer and longtime collector of self-taught art and vernacular photography. This week's focus is Occupational Photographs.
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07.31.12: Alexandra Lange

The Critical Olympics
What the best sports commentary does is just like criticism: it makes you care about the previously abstract.
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07.01.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries: 07.01.12
One of the most recognizable faces in American history is that of President Abraham Lincoln.
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06.29.12: Alexandra Lange

The Shape of Lunch
"Lunch Hour NYC," a new exhibition at the New York Public Library, defines the midday meal as an urban invention.
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06.24.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries: 06.24.12
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age. This week's focus is Zippos from VietNam.
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06.15.12: Alexandra Lange

The Charismatic Megafauna of Design
Identifying the "charismatic megafauna" of design and the critical uses of their popularity.
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05.30.12: Alexandra Lange

Dress Your Family in Formica and Faux Bois
The materials of architecture and interiors in the fashions of Schiaparelli and Prada.
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04.24.12: Rob Walker

Dancing About Ruins
Dancing about ruins: Can debris, detritus, junk, be useful creative material?
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03.26.12: Alexandra Lange

'Deco Japan' + Designing Women
The Japan Society's new exhibition "Deco Japan: Shaping Art and Culture, 1920-1945" displays the surprising globalism of this little-known period in Japanese design, when pent-up post-1923-earthquake desires for new goods and new traditions met up with a new openness to Western arts and the rise of industrialization
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03.25.12: John Foster

Accidental Mysteries, 03.25.12
Accidental Mysteries, a weekly cabinet of visual curiosities curated by John Foster, highlights images of design, art, architecture and ephemera brought to light by the magic of the digital age. This week's focus is vintage clothing labels.
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03.13.12: Jessica Helfand

Audrey Real Helfand: Designer Manquée
Fifty years ago, my mother Audrey was a prolific visual maker: today, she’d be running her own studio.
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03.02.12: Rick Poynor

Motif Magazine: The World Made Visible
Motif magazine, founded in 1958, anticipated a new way of seeing, documenting and appreciating the “visible world.”
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02.04.12: Alexandra Lange

Want to Buy A Valentine?
You can buy a valentine handmade by someone else. You can send your beloved a vintage card using an app. But where's the romance in that?
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01.23.12: Adam Harrison Levy

A History Of The World In 100 Objects
Adam Harrison Levy reviews the book A History Of The World In 100 Objects.
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11.17.11: Rick Poynor

The Infinite Warehouse of Images
The more photos we collectively produce, the more ruthless we need to be about bestowing our attention.
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11.07.11: Elle Luna

Report from a Japanese Maid Café
Globetrotting IDEO designer Elle Luna writes of her adventures among crazed anime addicts.
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10.16.11: Rick Poynor

Did We Ever Stop Being Postmodern?
Like it or not, argues the V&A's exhibition about postmodernism and design, we are all postmodern now.
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09.29.11: Rick Poynor

Should We Look at Corrosive Images?
What do violent photographs of war do to us as viewers?
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09.22.11: Rick Poynor

Jan Svankmajer and the Graphic Uncanny
Uncanny: Surrealism and Graphic Design opens at the Kunstal in Rotterdam on September 24.
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09.15.11: Rick Poynor

Richard Hamilton, the Great Decipherer
The artist Richard Hamilton, who died this week, was an acute observer of design and the contemporary world.
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09.11.11: Adam Harrison Levy

The Falling Man: An Interview with Henry Singer
An interview with Henry Singer produceder and director The Falling Man, a 90 minute documentary.
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08.31.11: Alexandra Lange

Announcing LetsGetCritical.org
My new blog collects the best arts & culture criticism, essays and reviews.
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08.17.11: Rick Poynor

Funerary Portraits: Snapshots in Stone
The portrait sculptures in the Cimetière du château in Nice resuscitate their subjects with a frequently startling vividness.
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08.15.11: Adrian Shaughnessy

The Politics of Desire and Looting
The part designers have played in the London riots.
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08.02.11: Rick Poynor

From the Archive: Down with Innovation
Designers have too readily accepted the caricature of themselves as airheaded stylists. Visual form is a vital expression of culture.
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07.21.11: Michael Erard

Notes on Getting the Daily Newspaper
Michael Erard tells of the experience of sharing the physical newspaper with his son.
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07.06.11: Rick Poynor

The Dictionary as Art Concept
A new Magritte exhibition catalogue is not the first to take the form of a dictionary. How important is originality when it comes to book design?
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07.04.11: Jessica Helfand

The Look of Freedom
It was the American novelist William Faulkner who once observed that we must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. So who am I to take issue with more contemporary interpretations of commemorative form?
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06.18.11: Adam Harrison Levy

A Tattoo, A Toothbrush and A Pipe
Adam Harrison Levy writes three stories for Father's Day: about being a father, about father-hood and about his own father.
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06.16.11: Elliott Earls

Make/Do
The vainglorious Mediocrity displayed by “artists” of every stripe.
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06.15.11: Alexandra Lange

Let's Go! World's Fairs of the 1930s
"Designing Tomorrow" at the National Building Museum showcases the optimisim, futurism and dreamy design ideas of the 1930s.
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06.14.11: Rick Poynor

Lost Inside the Collector's Cabinet
The Collector’s Cabinet at the Frederic Marès Museum in Barcelona is a mind-bending, sense-bedazzling palace of artifactual wonders.
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06.06.11: Rick Poynor

Is That a Gun in Your Pocket?
A DVD cover for the classic film noir Kiss Me Deadly uses the blindingly obvious symbol that just keeps on giving.
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05.26.11: Rick Poynor

A Dream World Made by Machines
Adam Curtis’s All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace is a complex, demanding, audacious piece of television.
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05.21.11: Alexandra Lange

Vicarious Thrifting, via Twitter
On the lively, effective and erudite thrifting community on Twitter.
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05.03.11: John Thackara

A Smooth Journey
Two images have preoccupied me in recent days.
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04.29.11: Jessica Helfand

The Royal Tweet
Long criticized for not being relevant in contemporary culture, the British royal family announces the engagement of the future King of England via Twitter.
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04.28.11: Rick Poynor

On My Screen: The Back of Beyond
John Heyer’s The Back of Beyond, made for Shell Australia in 1954, is one of the country’s finest films.
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04.26.11: Alexandra Lange

The Only Thing There's Just Too Little Of
What parenthood and artistic endeavor have in common: not enough time.
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04.07.11: Rick Poynor

Starowieyski's Graphic Universe of Excess
In Franciszek Starowieyski’s posters, desire, sexuality, monstrosity, madness and death conjoin in some of the most outrageous images found in graphic design.
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04.04.11: Constantin Boym

True East
Meditations on the Middle Eastern incense burner.
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04.01.11: Rick Poynor

Wim Crouwel: The Ghost in the Machine
Far from suppressing his own creative personality in the way he advised, Wim Crouwel was expressing it to the full.
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03.25.11: Rick Poynor

An Unknown Master of Poster Design
Karel Teissig might just be the best poster designer you have never heard of.
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03.22.11: John Thackara

Collapse of Civilization Tango
They say that the last days of Rome were culturally rich — and the same seems to be the case in our own times.
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03.18.11: Rick Poynor

Slicing Open the Surrealist Eyeball
Surrealism codified a poetic principle that has always existed as a possibility and still exists in life and art.
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03.01.11: John Thackara

Work Faster, India!
“Work faster, get time for life.” I just got back from a short trip to India where this insane slogan adorned a poster at a bus stop. It pretty much sums up a febrile mood in Delhi where it was announced during my stay that India's economy will grow by nine percent next year.
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02.18.11: Nancy Levinson

Architect Barbie
Architect Barbie: the world's most famous doll has a new career.
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02.10.11: Alexandra Lange

Whatever Happened to the Dinner Party?
Why has the dinner party become an endangered species of entertainment?
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02.02.11: Jude Stewart

Grandma's Matchbook Collection
My grandma collected matches. She scooped them up on business trips from the 1940s through the 80s, while buying ladies’ dresswear for a department store in Louisville, Kentucky.
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01.31.11: Julie Lasky

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Hype
After sitting through two dozen aerial stunts, accompanied by a score with a U2 pedigree, and by something that might be described as a plot, I emerged astonished by only one thing: that no one has actually died while making this musical.
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01.19.11: Jessica Helfand

Bring In Da Ponk!
There is a reason that most Americans don't think of roasted millet as a dietary staple, and it may have something to do with the fact that extracting it requires actually thrashing the wheat stalk from which it hails.
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01.17.11: John Thackara

How the Banks Want to Make China Sick — and Broke
Is it me, or are some banking people incredibly stupid as well as being venal and sociopathic?
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01.12.11: Steven Heller

My Big Fat Fast Food Feast at Eataly
A comparison of the vast differences of Italy's Eataly to New York's.
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01.09.11: Rob Walker

Ghosts in the Machine
Everyday we are busy producing fresh masses of life-affirming digital stuff. What happens to this “stuff” when we die?
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01.03.11: John Thackara

UnBox: Where Next for Design in India?
UnBox, a three day festival in Delhi, in February, brings together creative collectives from around India.
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12.24.10: Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange

Lunch With The Critics: Year-End Awards
Mark Lamster and Alexandra Lange pick the best and worse moments in design for 2010.
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12.17.10: Rick Poynor

Everything has Become Science Fiction
Is science fiction's most crucial task to envision the future or to understand the present?
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12.09.10: Rob Walker

Rob Walker's Collection of Bicentennial Quarters
Rob Walker shares his collection of bicentennial quarters.
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12.08.10: Chappell Ellison

The Would-be Words of 2010
Ecotistical, doga, and auxer are just a few of the new words you should know in 2010.
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12.07.10: John Thackara

Has Venice Cracked the Bottled Water Conundrum?
Italians are the leading consumers of bottled water in the world, the solution to the waste was to created a brand name for Venice’s tap water — Acqua Veritas.
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12.01.10: John Thackara

Jellyfish Farm
Scientists warn that most natural seafood could disappear by 2048.
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12.01.10: Rick Poynor

Where Is Art Now?
Leaving the art world to decide what art is doesn’t resolve the issue of quality.
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11.29.10: Nancy Levinson

Art Talks
Adam Lowe and Peter Greenaway at the Park Avenue Armory in New York City; Justin Partyka and Sir Terry Farrell at Eleven Spitalfields in London,
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11.26.10: Jessica Helfand

Pretty Pictures, Bad Judgment
If a picture's worth a thousand words, a publically broadcast picture is amplified, multiplied and cast out into a world where it can go anywhere.
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11.18.10: Alexandra Lange

My Marimekko Uniform
Wearing Marimekko is like being a walking work of art.
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11.09.10: Adrian Shaughnessy

Minotaurs in Suburban England
English designer Vaughan Oliver met Adrian Shaughnessy to show him preliminary work on a deluxe Pixies box set called Minotaur.
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11.05.10: Rick Poynor

Danzig Baldaev’s Prison House of Flesh
Fuel’s Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia, which appeared in 2004, was a shrewdly judged piece of publishing. The meticulous ink drawings of tattoos made by Danzig Baldaev, a prison guard from 1948 to 1986, had a horrible fascination for viewers safe in the knowledge that they would never have to endure anything as harsh, perilous and sadistic as the Soviet penal system.
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11.05.10: Rick Poynor

On My Shelf: Surrealism Permanent Revelation
This post is the first in an occasional series. The idea is to revisit a book from my bookshelf.
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11.04.10: Laura Tarrish

Laura Tarrish's Collection of Miniature Chairs
Laura Tarrish shares her collection of miniature chairs.
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11.01.10: KT Meaney

The Library: A Museum
The library at North Carolina State University is laden with gold. Books that seem "rare" or simply too special for public shelving have been, in my mind, erroneously stacked and "dewey decimaled".
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10.28.10: Andy Chen

Not Queer, But Human
As a gay man and a designer, Andy Chen believes that part of the solution of homophobia lies in creating images that redefine the very way sexual orientation is understood and discussed.
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10.14.10: James Lapides

Graphic Intervention
A slideshow containing images from Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985–2010, now on view at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
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10.04.10: Michael Erard

It's the 16th Ed. of the Chicago Manual of Style and I Feel Fine
Michael Erard reviews the 16th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.
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09.29.10: Adam Harrison Levy

The Wood Stacker
All his work, freed him from a dependency on oil. His heat is local.
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09.13.10: Alexandra Lange

If These Walls Could Talk
On the ABC sitcom Modern Family, three different families are visually defined by their living rooms.
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09.10.10: Rob Walker

Hearing Things
I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it’s merch. Of course, band-branded merchandise has been a major part of the music business, big and small, for years.
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09.09.10: Jessica Helfand

Fat Chance
There's a long grounding for the appreciation of zaftig beauty in painting and sculpture — from the baroque beauties of Peter Paul Rubens to the geometrically rotund figures of Fernando Botero. So why is it so difficult to talk about people who are really fat?
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09.07.10: Jessica Helfand

The Real Skinny on the Real Skinny
The is the first of two essays on the visual nature of body image.
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08.23.10: Jessica Helfand

In the Palm of Your Hand: Dexterity Puzzles
A selection of rare dexterity puzzles from the personal collection of Jessica Helfand.
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08.02.10: Meena Kadri

Two Rupees Worth

Now that the dust has settled on India's launch of their rupee symbol we are starting to see its application beyond the initial fanfare.


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07.26.10: Alexandra Lange

Culture War Begins at Home
I got this polite but slightly alarming email in response to my Opinionator piece "Easier Living, By Design," on the influence of Mary and Russel Wright.
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07.14.10: Jessica Helfand

Viva The Villain: A Review of Despicable Me
In an age in which last week’s Bernie Madoff is next week’s BP oil spill, villains are no longer the stuff of fiction. So when a really juicy fictional villain comes along — let alone two — it’s time to go to the movies.
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06.28.10: Kenneth Krushel

Bukhara: A Traveler’s Notes
Bukhara is one of the most ancient cities of the legendary Silk Road. Presented here is a slideshow of design and architecture from one traveler's visit.
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06.25.10: Alexandra Lange

Where Have All the Windchimes Gone?
What is a beach rental coming to when the dishes are without fish?
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06.23.10: Jessica Helfand

The Next Great Graphic Designer
Tonight on Bravo's "Work of Art: The Next Great Artist" the winning Penguin book cover design will be unveiled, which begs a few questions. We hope our readers will weigh in with their opinions.
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06.01.10: Jessica Helfand

Rome's MAXXI: Force Field as Field Space
The MAXXI center in Rome opens with a glorious, international exhibition and showcases a building that is likely to be as controversial — and as celebrated — as its designer.
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05.19.10: Helen Chang

Jugendstil: The Youth Style of Viennese Book Art
Turn-of-the-century Vienna was a magical, infectious brew. Viennese children’s book illustrations at the time were no exception.
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05.17.10: Alexandra Lange

The Maddening, Rewarding World of Design People
Most design people I know — don’t feel guilt over knowing what is priceless and what is junk. The film Please Give also thinks they know what it is worth.
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05.04.10: Alexandra Lange

Icon Review: Attila
At the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Attila, the applause starts before the curtain rises.
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05.03.10: Michelle Hauser

The Leisure of Looking: A Pedestrian View in a High-Speed Era
As trolleys replaced the horse drawn carriage, only to be overtaken by the streetcar and the automobile, Booth Tarkington observes that “the faster people were carried, the less time they had to spare.”
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04.20.10: Alexandra Lange

Carolina On... (No, I Just Can't Do It)
Everything cool that has happened in Durham and environs has happened since I left.
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02.22.10: Alexandra Lange

The Future of Snacks
I spent the last week in the Bay Area, and I can’t help but think that all trends related to kids and food start there.
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02.15.10: Christian Wiman

"Five Houses Down"
Five Houses Down, a poem by Christian Wiman.
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02.02.10: Alexandra Lange

All Rubble Is Not Alike
I watched Manufactured Landscapes in the weeks before Christmas and it was just too depressing to post about in the run-up to gift day.
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01.26.10: Andy Chen

Left Me Speechless
Our work should not merely address the political injustices wrought by discriminatory laws: it should register the sense of loss inflicted on those who suffer them.
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01.18.10: Alexandra Lange

Love and Flatware
A scene from Sleepless In Seattle makes me wonder about the idea that shared taste = true love.
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12.17.09: Rob Walker

Stuffed
The scariest reading of the A&E reality show Hoarders, is that these freakish piles of stuff it documents simply reflect what plenty of us consume as a matter of course.
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12.14.09: Michael Erard

Notes on Being Born on Soil
At times you hear stories about patriots in exile who want their children to be born in the motherland and supplement by putting dirt from said place under a woman who is giving birth.
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12.02.09: Alexandra Lange

DWR = D/R?
Like D/R in the late 1970s, DWR is suffering from over-expansion, loss of specialness, and the lack of a leader with personal design vision.
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12.01.09: Owen Edwards

Busted by Colombo, or, the Impediments of Style
The restrained high style of the ad men in Mad Men has revived a painful memory of one of my life-changing moments.
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11.18.09: James Wegener

Metabolic Dark City
In 1993, the City of Darkness, or the Walled City of Kowloon was demolished. To the 35,000 people living in this dense urban slum, the change was the end of a lawless existence.
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11.03.09: Steven Heller

Why Does John Baeder Paint Diners?
John Baeder's goal for the past three decades has been to record on canvas and paper just about every diner and roadside eatery.
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10.15.09: Timothy Jack Ward

Gardens and Their Designers
When I loaded up my Budget truck and moved from New York to our nation’s capital, the last thing on, and the first thing off, was my plants.
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10.05.09: Owen Edwards

Not the Same Old Same Old
It’s hard not to agree that cars, though better designed and engineered than ever, are often pressed into plebian duty.
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10.01.09: Steven Heller

People in Glass Apartments
People in glass apartments shouldn’t throw stones or other projectiles. Nor should they engage in private acts directly in front of their floor to ceiling windows.
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09.24.09: Mark Lamster

We Regret to Inform You That Love Will Not Save the Day
The big story on East 7th Street these days is the opening of Thom Mayne's new student center for Cooper Union, on Third Avenue.
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09.23.09: Karen Stein

The Plain Beauty of Well-Made Things
Judd worked as an art critic in his early years in New York as he established himself as an artist. From 1959 until the mid-1960s, his art criticism was his primary, if not only, source of income
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09.10.09: Dmitri Siegel

Lost In the Supermarket
Dmitri Siegel gets lost in the Supermarket and encounters incredibly grippy toothbushes, spouts, nozzles, Thorstein Veblen and Adolf Loos.
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09.10.09: Kerry William Purcell

The Art of Psychographics
Each and every graphic design signifies a memory. A familiar sign, map or poster can often trigger a set of associations in the viewer, a series of thoughts and feelings that have their own unique trajectory. 
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08.18.09: Chappell Ellison

Compulsion: Where Object Meets Anxiety
At the age of 30, my brother turned to our mother and said, “I never thought I’d make is this far.” In his early 20s, he was officially diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
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08.17.09: Rachel Berger

Significant Objects: #1 Mom Hooks
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The third of five stories is by Rachel Berger...
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08.17.09: Teddy Blanks

Significant Objects: Porcelain Scooter
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The fourth of five stories is by Teddy Blanks...
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08.17.09: Jessica Helfand

Significant Objects: Elvis Chocolate Tin
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The fifth of five stories is by Jessica Helfand...
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08.17.09: Adam Harrison Levy

Significant Objects: Star of David Plate
Significant Objects is a much-discussed experiment conducted by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. The first of five stories is by Adam Harrison Levy...
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07.12.09: Alexandra Lange

Handmade
I found Floyd Bennett Field, the decomissioned 1930s airfield on the border of Brooklyn and Jamaica Bay, to be a very strange place.
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07.09.09: Lena Dunham

On the Street in Tokyo
The major internal conflict I experienced on my recent trip to Japan was whether to explore the old-world: Zendos, philosopher's paths, Kabuki, tatami mats, visits to ancient spaces — or the new one: anime, arcades and bars that serve liquor while also selling puppies.
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07.01.09: Adam Harrison Levy

Cars R Us
Andrew Bush’s photographs, featured in his new book Drive, remind us just how intimate we have become with our cars.
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06.16.09: Mark Lamster

European Holiday
I'm off to the Continent, which is a good excuse to dip into the family photo archive for a few reminders of a time when European travel was a bit more of a novelty.
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06.08.09: Steven Heller

Mad Music
In 1962, I spent hours listening to Mad magazine’s first LP (Big Top Records), Mad “Twists” Rock ‘N’ Roll. Owning the record made me feel like I was part of a club, which latter evolved into the sardonic, ironic sixties youth culture. It brings me back to a time before art, design, and humor had to be sophisticated to be good.
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05.28.09: Angela Riechers

Hot Ticket
To see a play or movie, or ride the Twentieth Century Limited, you needed a ticket, and the development of ticket-dispensing machines paralleled the growth of popular culture.

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04.19.09: Margaret Wertheim

Susan Boyle and The Beauty of Crochet
I want to reflect here on Susan Boyle's massive appeal from a very personal point of view, for I have spent much of the last three years managing a project that harnesses the creative energies of hundreds of middle-aged female "nobodies": Crochet Reef Project
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04.14.09: Jessica Helfand

Land in Crisis: The Antelope Valley Story
Can the County of Los Angeles claim adverse possession, and rescind residents' rights to their own water? One plaintiff is fighting for the rights of landowners who are currently not pumping from the aquifer, and has mounted a class action suit in order to do so. She also believes that design can help solve the problem. Can it? What is at stake is the degree to which designers can lend their ingenuity to find a way to cut through this mess. And, in so doing, to help restore water to its rightful recipients.
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04.09.09: Jessica Helfand

What's The Story?
And what becomes of all those dead tweets, anyway — all those long-expired, evaporated updates?
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03.23.09: Steven Heller

Japanese Face Masks
You may recall seeing in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, scores of surgical face-mask-wearing passersby navigating their ways through the dense futuristic metropolis that is a cross between Tokyo and LA. So I was totally surprised to find on my first trip to Tokyo that not only is it the custom to wear such masks everywhere, it's big business too, with a nod to graphic design.
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03.11.09: Jessica Helfand

My Facebook, My Self
But as projections of ourselves, one's Facebook identity, made visible through one's photo albums, inhabits a public trajectory that goes way beyond who and what we are.


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03.05.09: Mark Lamster

The Best of NY: Yours Truly
What I've always known is now established fact, as certified by the weekly record of this great city.
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02.08.09: Mark Lamster

Roid Rage
The baseball world is up-in-arms over the revelations that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroid use a few years ago. My suggestion: move along, folks.
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01.23.09: Mark Lamster

Complaint Dept. (Redux)
Most complaints in sixty seconds, a new world record. You've read the transcript. Now watch the video.
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01.21.09: Mark Lamster

A Letter to the President
A letter to Barack Obama the day after his inauguration.
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01.19.09: Lorraine Wild

A Babylon of Signs
For a generation, since Venturi and Scott Brown’s Learning From Las Vegas, most Angelinos neither did not notice the steady proliferation of signs along their Southern California landscapes and strips, nor perhaps cared. With the turn of the century, that changed. For the last eight years Los Angeles has been engaged in a war with the outdoor advertising industry. 

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01.13.09: Mark Lamster

Mooses
Billy Crystal is one of those guests talk show producers adore, and if you were watching Letterman last night you know why.
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01.09.09: Mark Lamster

Complaint Dept.
The complaint has always been my great metier, the form in which I am a non-pareil master. Last night I became an honest-to-goodness world record holder in my favored idiom.
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01.05.09: Kerry Saretsky

Movable Feast
We all must eat; we all must drink. Together, these form the two most basic requisites of our existence. The restaurant is the watering-hole, the center point, the necessity. And yet restaurants do not just serve dinner; if you read between the lines on the menu, you’ll find they offer dinner, and a show.
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12.25.08: Mark Lamster

Practice Does Not Make Perfect
The J-E-T-S spent $75 million this year on a state-of-the-art new training facility designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, but they may still miss the playoffs.
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12.25.08: Mark Lamster

A Horrible Machine
Check out my essay on the classic scout song "Dunderbeck" in the latest issue (no. 6) of the always gnaw-worthy Meatpaper.
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12.03.08: Steven Heller

My Dada
Way back in 1965, as a fifteen years old, I was an early EVOtee. I had stumbled upon one of the first issues at a newsstand. The cover, which I remember vividly, had a photo collage of a serpent emerging from battle fatigues worn by America's commanding general in Vietnam, William Westmoreland. Haunting is not a strong enough word to describe the impact that this had on a teen just a year or two out of Valley Forge Military Academy, where, surprisingly, I had learned about the military impossibility of winning the war.
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11.03.08: Andrew Blauvelt

Towards Relational Design
Is there any overarching philosophy or connective thread that joins so many of today’s most interesting and increasingly diverse designs from the fields of architecture, graphic, and product design? I believe we are in the a third major phase in modern design history, moving towards an era dominated by relationally-based design activities.
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10.15.08: Dmitri Siegel

Design by Numbers
Dmitri Siegel discusses Stephen Baker's new book The Numerati and how data-mining and personalized content may impact design.
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10.02.08: Jessica Helfand

The Posters of Padua
In the sixteenth century the University of Padua initiated a custom that has prevailed to the present day — a custom which boasts, as it turns out, a very prominent design component.
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09.30.08: Adam Harrison Levy

The Inventor of the Cowboy Shirt
A few years ago, I found myself lost inside a shopping mall with Jack A. Weil, better known as Jack A, the man who, in 1946, invented the snap-buttoned cowboy shirt.
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09.15.08: Jessica Helfand

Second in a Series: Completions
The series, when shown on a single surface, carries with it a kind of implicit satisfaction that a series disseminated over time does not.
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09.04.08: William Drenttel

Whose Flag?
Nearly a decade into a new century, I believe it is unacceptable for a design organization, foundation, board of directors, magazine or other enterprise, to mount an initiative with an all male panel of judges. Such behavior is no longer acceptable and should not be tolerated by a community of designers (or any other community).
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09.02.08: Thomas de Monchaux

Remembering Yves St. Laurent
So what can we learn from the presence of fashion within design, and of design within fashion? For example, and more precisely, what can we learn from the work of Yves St. Laurent, the iconic French fashion designer who passed away this Summer?
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08.18.08: Steven Heller

Canned Laughter
The verbal and visual puns of porta-a-potties are copious throughout this indispensable industry. Manufacturers and suppliers go to great lengths to make the portable toilet experience clean and sanitary, as well as warm and cute. Portable toiletry is only second after hair salons (i.e. Mane Street, Clip Joint, Hair Today, etc.) for warm and cute, albeit excruciating, pun names. And yet this is a dirty job, so why shouldn’t those who attend to our bodily hygiene have the opportunity to practice a little wit and double entendre?
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08.07.08: Jessica Helfand

First In A Series: Cartophily
Mostly unified by their one-to-two format, cigarette cards revealed countless variation in topic and scope, style and personality, seriousness of purpose and goofball whimsy. If the ardent collector defines the amalgamation of disparate items by retaining a fundamental organizing principle, then what is it, exactly, that guides the maker? And enthralls the viewer?
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07.14.08: William Davies King

Collections of Nothing

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07.14.08: Jessica Helfand

Annals of Ephemera, Part III: Aging 2.0
Paper has a finite life span. It yellows and oxidizes and eventually disintegrates. But today, there are a host of specialty materials that protect and preserve paper so that, unlikely as it may seem, ephemeral materials may have found their very own fountain of youth.
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07.08.08: Andrew Flamm & Michelle Hauser

Folk Photos
The onset of the digital revolution has made the period for using film finite. Processed prints are becoming obsolete. With the immediate option of discarding an unintended image, a rich library of our unselfconscious selves will no longer be recorded. But it lives here, in these beautiful, poetic and tactile objects.
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07.07.08: Randy Nakamura

Steampunk'd, Or Humbug by Design
In this time of cultural recycling, Humbug is a word perhaps best used to describe Steampunk, a subculture supposedly born out of a mash-up of DIY (do-it-yourself), Victoriana, punk, science fiction, Japanese anime and the urge to re-skin one’s computer as 19th century bric-a-brac. If the number of recent articles in the mainstream press is any reliable barometer, Steampunk is the next big thing.
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06.30.08: Jessica Helfand

Reflections on the Ephemeral World, Part Two: Food
Ever since the 16th century Italian Mannerist painter Archimboldo made portraits from the detritus of his dinner, the relationship between the visual and the edible has been something of a puzzle. Welcome to the world of foodistry: design with food.
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06.05.08: John Thackara

We Are All Emerging Economies Now

I recently received an invitation to discuss design and development with a wonderful group of design peers in a beautiful location. But I have decided to decline the invitation. Why?


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06.05.08: Andrew Blauvelt

Over the Rainbow
June marks the start of a month-long series of LGBT Pride celebrations in cities around the United States and the world, as well as the 30th anniversary of the rainbow flag — the de facto symbol of the LGBT community. While the visual and media focus of the celebrations have been the parades, the most enduring element is perhaps the rainbow.
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05.30.08: Jessica Helfand

Reflections on The Ephemeral World, Part One: Ink
An elegy to the makeready — those sheets of paper, re-fed into a press to get the ink balances up to speed, leaving a series of often random, palimpsest-like, multiple impressions on a single surface — in the digital age.
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05.16.08: Jessica Helfand

Iron Man: The Screen Behind the Screen
Iron Man is the fulfillment of all the computer-integrated movies were ever meant to be, and by computer-integrated, I mean just that: beyond the technical wizardry of special effects, this is a film in which the computer is incorporated, like a cast member, into the development of the plot itself.
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04.22.08: Adam Harrison Levy

The Passion of George Lois
How adman George Lois chronicled the sixties with his cover designs for Esquire magazine, with a peek behind the scenes at the legendary famous Muhammad-Ali-as-St. Sebastian photoshoot.
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03.24.08: Steven Heller

The Magic of the Peace Symbol
There was probably no more galvanizing nor polarizing emblem during the 1960s than the peace symbol. And perhaps few symbols have had origins surrounded in as much mystery and controversy
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03.21.08: Jessica Helfand

Viewer Discretion Advised
One of the great ironies of contemporary culture is the degree to which pro-forma warnings read as largely invisible. “Viewer Discretion Advised” tells us we’ve been warned...
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03.12.08: The Editors

Marc Rabinowitz: Prostitution Facts
In spite of the tawdry glamour of "high-priced call girls," let's remember that this supposedly victimless crime takes a vast human toll that goes far beyond the embarrassment of powerful men. Marc Rabinowitz’s project invites us to imagine prostitution’s stark statistics...
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02.17.08: Rick Poynor

Lost America: The Flamingo Motor Hotel
I found this old photo in a box at the back of my attic. It shows a motel in Flagstaff, Arizona where I stayed for a couple of nights in May 1978. I was 20, it was my first visit to the US, and for three weeks I had been touring around on Greyhound buses.
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01.30.08: Jessica Helfand

Gone, Baby, Gone (Things, Part II)
From July 19, 1977 to February 28, 1981, the security staff at New York's Roosevelt Raceway kept a fastidious record of lost property. The result — 152 pages of wayward mittens, misplaced wallets and hundreds of personal items — is as much a record of the social history of a generation as anything I've come across in a long time.
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01.13.08: Rob Walker

Imitation of Life
Spend enough time looking at design and new-product Web sites and it’s easy to spot recurring themes. One of the most interesting is things that look like other things.
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01.11.08: Cheryl Towler Weese

Is Apple Soft on Crime?
Here's the real question: could a climbing crime rate and the rise of the iPod be related? Has the iPod's design increased its likelihood of theft, and if so, what role could Apple's designers play in developing solutions?
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12.22.07: Michael Bierut

The Most Hated Holiday Song in the World
Ten years ago, Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid attempted to create the most irritating song in the world. It's now available online, and it's perfect for the holidays!
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09.18.07: Dmitri Siegel

Designers and Dilettantes
Dmitri Siegel discusses graphic design authorship and the impending release of Elliott Earls' new film, The Sarany Motel.
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07.10.07: Jessica Helfand

Cock-a-Doodle-Don't
Where food is concerned, the relationship between what things look like and how we respond exists at its most primal level: what is a gut reaction, after all, if not something that attacks your gut?
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06.13.07: Tom Vanderbilt

On the Squareness of Milk Containers
Do you know, or have you ever wanted to know, why milk containers are square and soft drink containers are round? This and other questions of design are answered in Robert Frank's new book The Economic Naturalist: In Search of Explanations for Everyday Enigmas.
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06.11.07: Michael Bierut

Everything I Know About Design I Learned from The Sopranos
Last night, after eight years, 86 episodes, and untold quantities of gobbagool, The Sopranos finished its run on HBO. And this is what we've learned, from a design point of view.
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05.31.07: William Drenttel

Al Gore for President
Writing as a designer, as a writer, as a husband and father, but most of all, as a human being — I believe we should draft Al Gore to run for the Presidency of the United States.
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05.28.07: Jessica Helfand

My Dirty Little Secret
Gardening is its own infuriating design challenge. You fret and you rethink and you second-guess yourself constantly, and then for one delirious, thrilling moment something blooms and you feel utterly triumphant. And then it dies and you are back where you started.
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05.17.07: Jessica Helfand

Ad Reinhardt, Graphic Designer
Ad Reinhardt fretted about the meaning of life. He agonized about the purpose of painting. He questioned everyone, critiqued everything, and worked incessantly. In other words, he was a graphic designer.
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04.22.07: Jessica Helfand

The New Manifest Destiny
When does a picture solidify a news story, and when does it merely sensationalize it? Decisions about words and pictures are made by editors and publishers, designers and photographers — but they are consumed by a public fully capable of an entire range of emotional responses. After this week's events at Virginia Tech, words and pictures do a poor job of communicating outrage and pain. And no amount of compositional ingenuity can reverse what happened.
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04.19.07: Jesse Nivens

In Search of Stock(y) Photography
That's right: in the alternate universe of stock photography, attactive people outnumber fat people 84 to one. As a culture, have we taken the idea of "overweight" and completely blocked it out?
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03.26.07: Jessica Helfand

Annals of Ephemera: Town & Country Cookbook
Book cover designers are visual choreographers who frame miniature narratives in order to tease prospective readers into wanting more. Which often means showing less. Or not.
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03.14.07: Jessica Helfand

Art Director Ken
Art Director Ken is is a charmed, if mildly cautionary tale, for it brings to mind the potentially superficial nature in which we judge a person, an identity — indeed, an entire profession.
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03.01.07: David Stairs

That (Other) 1970's: The Last King of Scotland
The Last King of Scotland, Kevin McDonald's film about Idi Amin's notorious presidency, opened in Uganda to great fanfare. The VIP screening took place at Kampala's Cineplex, with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Forest Whitaker in attendance. The premiere was not targeted to the average Ugandan...
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02.19.07: Jessica Helfand

The Illusion of Certainty
Artist Allan McCollum aspires to an unprecedented scale with this "Shapes" project: his goal is to make enough shapes, assuming a population of approximately 9.1 billion by the year 2050, so that everyone on the planet can have one. Shapes aside, what's truly fascinating is the idea of the system: what is it about them that we hate to love and love to hate?
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02.12.07: Jessica Helfand

I'm Not Ready to Make Nice

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02.05.07: Adrian Shaughnessy

"I Sold My Soul And I Love It"
The current issue of Creative Review is "guest edited" by hip British advertising agency Mother. The theme, suggested by Mother, is I Sold My Soul And I Love It — a vastly contradictory statement, but one that invites debate over what it means to work in visual communication."
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01.19.07: Jessica Helfand

The Karaoke Effect
The lure of American Idol, in these early weeks, lies in precisely this shaky space: that illusory bubble populated by thousands of fame-seekers who fervently believe in their own righteous, if highly fictional talent. It's cultural fallout. Just as the karaoke singer imagines him or herself live and in concert before the screaming fans, so, too, does the illusion persist once the microphone is turned off.
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01.16.07: Michael Bierut

The It Factor
In their 1983 book Quintessence: The Quality of Having It, Owen Edwards and Betty Cornfeld created an elegant and influential treatise in what makes something the real thing, a lesson that Steve Jobs has obviously absorbed.
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12.29.06: Alissa Walker

War Is Over! If You Want It
When the star of the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon is asked by a reporter what he thinks Nixon should do to end the Vietnam War, Lennon stares incredulously into the camera. "He should declare peace." As if this was the most obvious solution in the world.
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11.27.06: Jessica Helfand

How Hollywood Nailed The Half-Pipe
Pixar and Animal Logic have mastered a particularly persuasive (and as it turns out, rather literal) form of spin that makes Road Runner look like dryer lint.
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11.20.06: Michael Bierut

New House
In 1967, just after my tenth birthday, we moved from a cramped 1940s bungalow in an older Cleveland suburb to up-and-coming Parma, Ohio. I had been walking the earth for a full decade, but that fall I felt I was finally assuming my birthright as an American: a brand new house.
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11.17.06: Jessica Helfand

Into the Pink
Co-opting a color and making it your own.
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10.29.06: Michael Erard

The G Word
Google has launched an effort to keep people from using their name as an all-purpose verb. Don't want to be evil? Then don't act as if you can win if you constrain the creative productivity of language.
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10.22.06: Jessica Helfand

My Cup Holder Runneth Over
When we're not hiding behind our nail-technician-primed hands, drinking our barrista-blended beverages, IMing, text-messaging, and push-button withdrawing more money from the ATM to pay for all of these things, who are we?
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09.24.06: Michael Bierut

The Golden Age of American Commercialism
The encroachment of commercialism into everyday life seems like a peculiarly modern phenomenon. Yet around one hundred years ago, America began a romance with salesmanship that today seems almost delirious. A 1922 business directory shows how great crass commercialism used to look.
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09.21.06: Jessica Helfand

Death 'N' Stuff
Smoking Kills: The label days it all. Or does it? Once the allegedly chilling skull and crossbones is marketed as a decorative pattern on a silk bowtie, its credibility as an mark of peril seems, well, somewhat questionable, begging the question: have we become so bored by life that we've inadvertently become inured to death?
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08.29.06: William Drenttel

What Ever Happened to Half.com, Oregon?
But back in 1999, in its Netflix-like heyday, Half.com was hot. And it did something quite remarkable. As a publicity stunt, it bought a town and renamed it. Someplace in Oregon. I wondered what ever happened to Half.com, Oregon — the first dot com city in the world?
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08.20.06: Jessica Helfand

The Ovalization of The American Mind
Ovals — emancipated from circular restriction, freed of rectangular rigidity — are a perfect metaphor for the way we live now. They're out of shape and flabby, non-committal and generic — like sensible shoes, practical and monotonous and dull.
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08.17.06: Dmitri Siegel

World 6.0: Same as the Old World?
Edward Castronova's recent book Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games sheds some light on the increasingly tangled relationship between MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games) and the game of life.
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07.28.06: Jessica Helfand

A Good Pan Is Hard To Find
On baking a cheesecake and becoming a better designer: it's one big balancing act of artistry and skill.
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07.20.06: Jessica Helfand

The Global Curse of Comic Sans
In this coastal region slung just below the Pyrenees, one might expect to see evidence of the enduring cultural tensions between Spain and Catalonia — different kinds of signs or symbols, for instance â€" but on the surface at least, no such rift is exposed. Instead, Catalonia clings to a visual language that celebrates the goofy: this is a country awash in Comic Sans.
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07.07.06: Jessica Helfand

The Right Stuff
Prada is yet another in a long line of stories in which posessions loom large, at once shining beacons of material success and wagging fingers of moral turpitude. When will we have enough stuff?
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06.08.06: Lawrence Weschler

Koppel to Cooper: Cool, Cooler, Cold
Hey, maybe that's the ticket for McSweeney's: Put some bigtime sexy celebrity on the cover, somebody huge and charismatic and irresistible, somebody like, you know...Ted Koppel! What then to make of this month's cover of Vanity Fair? The fact that the editors there, in offering Anderson Cooper up as the studmuffin du mois, may be an occasion for some serious concern.
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06.01.06: Jessica Helfand

"Oui, Oui, Oui" All The Way Home
On a sweltering day last August, my daughter and I embarked with a friend on a 6-day tour of Paris: Kid Paris, the Paris of candy stores and carousels and more than a few weird new ice cream flavors.
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05.18.06: Julie Lasky

The Photography of Mark Robbins
Mark Robbins' Households is a collection of portraits in which the sitters are sometimes sitting rooms (or kitchens or bedrooms), and the people are polished, draped, and arrayed like furniture. Composed to resemble architectural plans or elevations — or in some cases the triptychs of medieval altarpieces — the images represent home dwellers and their environments. Flesh, bone, brick, stone, contoured torsos, and varnished chairs assume equal status. The message is simple: You may not be what you eat, but you most certainly are where you live.
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05.14.06: Alissa Walker

Why Scientology is Good for Hollywood
If you live where I do, in the actual city of Hollywood, just a few blocks away from where the Oscars are held, you see the Church of Scientology as somewhat of a savior. Within a two-mile corridor along Hollywood Boulevard, the Church owns eight historic buildings, four of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. In a neighborhood where architectural triumphs evaporate with little remorse, Scientology is the most ardent preservationist force in town.
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04.30.06: Jessica Helfand

Disaster Relief 101: No Door Hanger Left Behind
Door hangers seem the perfect metaphor for FEMA's failure: they're one-dimensional, unnecessarily complicated, and basically useless.
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04.21.06: Jessica Helfand

The Art of Thinking Through Making

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04.11.06: Jessica Helfand

The Propensity for Density
It's like design's been on a diet and finally gets to eat that giant cheesecake: shifting notches on the belt buckle, we're so happy for the sugar high that we don't realize we're slipping. And slipping we are.
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04.04.06: Jessica Helfand

A Sequence in Time
01:02:03 04/05/06 This number sequence in time will not occur again until 2106.
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03.16.06: Lawrence Weschler

Languorous Bodyscapes
"The long, languid spread of her body makes the first and most lasting impression." And more on these sorts of landscape-bodyscape slippages by this seasoned The New Yorker writer, and recent author of Everything That Rises : A Book of Convergences.
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03.09.06: Dmitri Siegel

Broadcast vs. Broadband
Viral video is on the rise, spreading from broadband to broadcast and back again. What are the opportunities for designers in this new genre?
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03.02.06: Jessica Helfand

Give Me Privacy or Give Me an ID Card
The proposed National ID Card further blurs the line between the privacy and full disclosure of personal data in the public domain. It's the Card's design that appears the final string that may either secure our rights as individuals or rip them apart.
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02.16.06: Jessica Helfand

What We Talk About When We Talk About Design History
At the end of the day, being a design historian means being observant and fearless, stubborn and driven, principled, passionate and anything but lazy. It means going where you have to go to get what you need.
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02.02.06: Jessica Helfand

Freedom of Speech or Filching of Style? The New Law of Eminent Lo-Mein
DIY design invading typography terrain: culture-jamming in the domains of freedom of speech, pharmaceutics, and pop-culture.
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01.29.06: Jessica Helfand

The D Word
HGTV's sunny splendor of twenty-seven minute remodels and inexhaustible inspiration: fodder for the DIY devotee.
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01.19.06: Adrian Shaughnessy

Robert Brownjohn and The Big Idea

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01.08.06: Jessica Helfand

Civilian Typography: The Power and The Fury
Without a cell phone, or in a flood, or barred from public transportation, the thing that separates human beings from the animal kingdom is our ability to communicate verbally. If we can't do that, we do it graphically. When all else fails, the pen isn't just mightier than the sword: it is the sword.
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01.01.06: Mark Lamster

Seeing Red
Red Bogart blamed technology and changing attitudes for the reason he sold Camp Tomahawk, but Mark Lamster knew there was something more to the story.
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12.19.05: Adrian Shaughnessy

Charles Dickens and The BBC
Who would have guessed that a BBC costume drama would provide us with Exhibit-A in the defense's case — that a mass audience can be engaged without pandering to base instincts?
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12.16.05: Jessica Helfand

Face Value
Facial transplants mapping our future: how much is the world of design responsible?
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12.11.05: Dmitri Siegel

Bartleby™
In his classic story of Wall Street, Bartleby the Scrivener, Herman Melville recounts the tale of a humble copyist employed by the story's narrator. Could Bartleby's perfectly crafted refrain be the appropriate response to a world where every choice and configuration has been designed?
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10.27.05: Jessica Helfand

The Shock Of The Old: Rethinking Nostalgia
Placing Nostalgia: where in the design landscape does it fit? And should it be included in the first place?
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10.09.05: Alexandra Lange

Married with Tchotchkes
For many design-obsessed couples registering at Moss requires more strategy than playing the stock market.
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10.06.05: Jessica Helfand

On Citizenship and Humanity: An Appeal for Design Reform
Ruminations on the Citizen Designer: A human first, a designer second, but most importantly, one who responds to collective cultural needs.
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09.01.05: Jessica Helfand

Eye of the Storm
A re-entrance into the world: Following Hurricane Katrina, how should design continue?
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08.20.05: Rick Poynor

Sublime Little Tubes of Destruction
In a culture otherwise swamped with unregulated branding, the graphic counter-attack on the cigarette packet, on its visual integrity as a design and its brand equity, normally regarded as commercially sacrosanct, is a remarkable sight to behold. In Europe, in the US and around the world, outsized health warnings in ugly typography now disfigure and subvert the best efforts of the brands' designers to embody the fast-fading allure of the cigarette.
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08.12.05: Jessica Helfand

A Mosaic of Vision and Memory
Language, in the service of the visual, is a conceptual catalyst: and in Umberto Eco's latest book, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, words meet pictures in a captivating and indeed, an astonishing way.
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07.31.05: Jessica Helfand

Why Bugs Don't Belong on TV
On today's TV screens, the station-identification logo sits tethered to the surface, like an annoying rash that won't quite disappear. You think you've kicked it when — WHAMMMO — there it is again, blemishing the patina of an otherwise perfectly good viewing experience.
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07.08.05: Jessica Helfand

New Models for Design Efficiency: Introducing Otto
eniac Link http://www.newyorker.com/ http://www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/rbm/mauchly/jwm8.html http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0001NBMAS/ref=pd_sxp_f/002-9888674-0621611?v=glance&s=dvd
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06.22.05: Jessica Helfand

The Adventures of Cynic Boy and Design Mom in 3D
Brainwashed I may be, but I distinctly noted an homage to Salvador Dalí — with perhaps a gentle nod to René Magritte — last night while sitting through Robert Rodriguez's ludicrous, yet oddly luscious new movie, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D.
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06.16.05: Rick Poynor

In Memoriam: My Manual Typewriter
The fully evolved typewriter is a 20th-century industrial archetype. It feels inevitable, almost elemental, like one of those object types, such as a chair or a fork, that simply had to exist in this universe of forms.
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06.10.05: Jessica Helfand

The Cut: When Life Imitates Art (I Mean Design)
CBS Television debuted its new series, The Cut, (modeled after other reality shows such as NBC's The Apprentice)about "16 aspiring designers."
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05.20.05: Rick Poynor

But Darling of Course it's Normal: The Post-Punk Record Sleeve
There have been collections of post-punk music and now, finally, there is British music critic Simon Reynolds' 500-page history of the genre from 1978 to 1984. It's a brilliant book. He argues that post-punk music's explosion of creativity equals the golden age of popular music in the mid-1960s, but that it has never received its full due. I think he's right.
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04.24.05: Rick Poynor

Eduardo Paolozzi, 20th Century Image-Maker
If a visual artist created more concentrated, exhilarating images of science, technology and the media realm during the mid-20th century than British artist Eduardo Paolozzi, then I would like to see them. Paolozzi, who died on 22 April aged 81, was first of all a sculptor, but the screenprints he produced in the 1960s rank as masterpieces of the medium.
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04.21.05: Jessica Helfand

Extremely Young and Incredibly Everywhere: The Public Art of Jonathan Safran Foer
Jonathan Safran Foer's emergent body of work includes film and video, public art installations, theatrical collaboration, expressive typography, and a fairly prolific jumpstart as a writer. Cumulatively, all of his projects — which range from collecting empty pages of famous writers, to constructing parabolas in a public park, to collecting anonymous self-portraits — seem to look for ways to formally address time and space and the human condition.
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03.21.05: Rick Poynor

Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot Dot
Dot Dot Dot is the most stimulating and original visual culture magazine produced by designers since Emigre's heyday in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s.
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03.17.05: Jessica Helfand

Scrapbooking: The New Paste-Up
"Craft-born embellishments," note one supplier of scrapbooking products, "are penetrating an unexpected market: graphic design."
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03.03.05: Lawrence Weschler

The Aural As An Architectonic Challenge
What are the people over at Transom.org up to? As it happens, this month is a very good time to pay them a visit: for the next several weeks, Walter Murch — the phenomenally smart and inspired film and sound editor — will be continuing to hold court there.
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02.21.05: Jessica Helfand

Our Bodies, Our Fonts
Body markings — piercings, tattoos and so forth — have recently evolved into a kind of marginalized form of graphic expression, yet one that sheds an unusual light on some of the more mainstream ways in which design often reveals itself.
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02.18.05: Jessica Helfand

My Friend Flickr
Flickr is a digital photo sharing website and web services suite that was developed by Ludicorp, a Vancouver, Canada company founded in 2002. It's a utopian oddity — a culture enabled by a technology that in turn enables a culture — and it's a brilliant example of socially networked software because it's free, its easy, and it makes sense.
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02.16.05: Jessica Helfand

The New Paper Chase: Cyberspace on The Auction Block
On February 23, Christies in New York will auction more than 1,000 items dating as far back as the early 17th century, all of it tracing the history of cyberspace.
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02.14.05: Tom Vanderbilt

Rise and Fall of Rock and Roll Graphic Design
Has heavy metal graphic design run its course? Is the band logo as a species dead? And is there much of a future for the graphic representation of popular music itself?
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02.12.05: Rick Poynor

The Ikea Riot: Unsatisfied Excess?
When Ikea threw open the doors of a new store in London, the result was mayhem as customers stampeded. Evidence of social breakdown, or a sign that the utopian argument for low-cost modernist design has been won?
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06.06.04: Rick Poynor

Modernising MoMA: Design on Display
MoMA is broadening its approach to graphic design. Recovering this material history will assist us in understanding our broader cultural history and help to educate a more aware generation of visual communicators.
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11.02.03: Rick Poynor

It's a Man's World
Adam Parfrey’s book shows hundreds of men’s magazine covers from the 1950s painted by artists who specialized in depictions of tough guys abusing terrified women. Have we outgrown this kind of thing? Heck no.
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